“For our country, for us all,” read the Marines billboard as I drove through the nation’s heartland. I turned the phrase over in my mind, thinking just what kind of courage, heart, and love of country it takes to serve in our nation’s military.
A rush of thankfulness flooded over me as the tires of my Jeep Patriot ate the miles to the next destination, and farmland stretched endlessly on either side of the highway.
I whispered ‘thank you.’
Today, our nation commemorates Memorial Day, which began as Decoration Day, when the grave decorating custom became more prevalent during and after the Civil War, honoring soldiers who died — both Union and Confederate.
Since then, the final Monday in May has become a special time to honor all of the men and women who have served and died, paying the ultimate price for our freedom and our country.
As I travel for various ag projects, I am struck by the diverse beauty of both the land and the people in our United States of America.
In the long rural stretches of open land from the Midwest through the Great Plains — where you can drive for an hour and not see another vehicle, where the farm report comes on the radio several times a day and consumes the hours of 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. on the local cable channel as I write this — you get a feel for the bigness of America, and its call of freedom.
In the East — where the patchwork of small farms live at the fringes of suburbia with subdivisions sometimes sprinkled between them — agriculture, both land and livestock come in all varieties, a framing and founding fabric for our American tapestry.
American soldiers come from all walks of life and all regions of the country, but one thing we often overlook is the high percentage coming from farms and ranches and rural living.
As I drove past that billboard — on a highway near Lubbock, Texas — I also whispered a ‘thank you’ for the fathers and the mothers, and the families and the communities, who have raised, and then lost, these men and women who have paid the ultimate price so that we may all be free.